Joy Covey Dies; Former Amazon CFO Was 50

by at . Comments

Joy Covey, who helped take Amazon public and to new heights as the retailer's chief financial officer, died Wednesday when her bicycle collided with a van.

She was 50. San Francisco's KGO-TV reports:

Joy Covey Pic

"According to the California Highway Patrol, Covey was riding downhill on Skyline Boulevard [in San Mateo County] when she crashed into a Mazda minivan."

"The minivan, driven by a 22-year-old Fremont man, was heading uphill and made a left turn onto Elk Tree Road directly in front of Covey."

"Covey crashed into the right side of the van and was pronounced dead at the scene. CHP officials say the driver is cooperating with their investigation."

Covey, who graduated from college and passed her CPA exam at age 19, was ranked No. 28 on Fortune's Most Powerful Women in Business list.

After dropping out of high school because she was bored, Fortune wrote, Covey used her 173 IQ "to pass California's high school-equivalency exam."

After working at the accounting firm Arthur Young, she headed to Harvard to earn an MBA and a law degree. Eventually she linked up with Amazon.

In 1996, Fortune wrote, "following an interlude in Silicon Valley, Covey arrived in Seattle, pumped at the prospect of being a pioneer." Covey said:

"Amazon was then an unproven e-commerce curiosity. 'I thought, Wouldn't it be great to build one of those new business models like Microsoft or Intel or Dell?"

Covey was an unusually influential finance chief, working with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to recruit management and steer the company into businesses far beyond books.

Says Bezos: "I can budget only four days a year to talk to investors, so Joy has been's primary contact with Wall Street. In the Internet space, that's really unusual."

"She's doing what a CEO would normally do.'"

Covey led Amazon's [1997] IPO, counseling impatient Wall Street analysts to expect more red ink before profitability. It didn't take long to right the ship.

By the time she retired in 2000, Covey's net worth was $200 million. Amazon now has 97,000 employees and a market capitalization of $142.6 billion.

The Times adds that "Amazon went public on May 14, 1997, with an initial public offering price of $18. Shares closed [Wednesday] at a record $312.06.

In recent years, Covey was working as the treasurer for an environmental group. Covey also established the Beagle Foundation, which gives funding to environmental causes."

Tags: ,